The level of continuous collapse of buildings is highly embarrassing and disconcerting. MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI writes on the probable causes, effects and proffers some lasting solutions.
The incidence of building failures and collapse has become a major issue of concern in the development of Nigeria as the frequencies of their occurrence and the magnitude of the losses in terms of lives and properties are now becoming very alarming.
Though building collapse is not limited to Nigeria alone or the developing economies, the scope and frequency of the menace in the country has reached quite embarrassing proportions.
In fact, at a recent public function, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola noted that the level of incessant building collapse in Nigeria has reached an embarrassing proportion.
He said there was need for a complete overhaul, and that regulatory bodies in the building and construction industry should be responsible to regulate and control the practice of the building profession.
Fashola said: “There is no doubt that the Nigerian construction industry has grown in size and complexity, and indeed, recorded giant strides in national development. However, it is sad to note that cases of shoddy works and defective buildings still traverse the landscape, and this has become a plague agitating the minds of Nigerians.
“In worst case scenarios, these have led to the collapse of buildings, loss of lives and investments.”
Fashola added that the menace casts a slur on the competence of the nation’s building community of professionals responsible for designing and monitoring construction works at building sites.
Experts have also suggested that professionals should not bear the blame alone. This is because, firstly, it has been proven that owners of buildings under construction derail from their approved plans relying more on imagination and fantasy.
Secondly, the approving authorities are also known to fail to monitor compliance with approved plans.
Also, some building owners shun professionals in order to cut costs.
Fourthly, the high cost of building materials has led greedy contractors with eyes on profits, to patronise substandard materials. These short-cut measures have contributed immensely to the occurrence of failed buildings in the country.
It would be recalled that in 2011 at a stakeholders’ forum of the Nigerian Building & Road Research Institute (NBRRI), the following grim statistics were given,
They observed that building collapses were more common in cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt, as 60 per cent of the collapses occur in Lagos State alone, and that 70 per cent, 23.3 per cent and 6.7 per cent of collapsed buildings belong to private, public and corporate organizations, respectively.
It was also noted that the use of poor materials as well as poor workmanship by quacks is also responsible for building collapse and that 70 per cent of collapsed buildings do not have government approval prior to the building development.
It was because of these problems that the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) last week, called on its members across the country to show commitment to the ethics and values of the profession.
The president of the institution, Sir Rowland Abonta, stated this at the first National Council of the Institution for the 2018/2019 session.
Abonta emphasised that the state of housing is still lacking in different ways, particularly, in terms of adequacy as the Nigerian populace has a lot of unmet housing needs.
“The institution is at the forefront of the advocacy for housing. We have participants in the formulation of housing policy that Nigeria has never had. We have also been giving constant advice to the government on the best approach to solving the housing need of the nation. Our members are active developers of the government housing policies”, he said.
Abonta said the body takes building profession seriously because the people who misrepresent it, who do the work that they are not supposed to do, are dominant in the housing sector.
“So, we are making strong efforts to curb their activities, and it will be possible to eradicate their activities to the barest minimum through advocacy, letting people know who to go to when they are in need of housing service. So, we are making every effort to curtail their activities through NIESV”.
He said that the main thrust of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers is to bring those who studied the profession but are not actually qualified as professionals, retrain and certify them to enable them practice the issues of the agency in the right way.
He further revealed that the agency is also open to other professionals who are engaged in the field through the Association of Estate Agency of Nigeria to have them trained and regulated, to have them controlled in order to reduce the menace that brings bad name to the institution.
He emphasised the need for closer collaborations between institutions and governance to reduce the incidence of collapsed buildings, re-stating the need for state governments to create a position of Valuer-General in each state to reduce the incidences of collapsed buildings.
According to stakeholders, every building and construction projects normally have sets of design specifications that the professionals ought to adhere to. Some of these design specifications include architectural design, M and E design, structural design and the survey plan.
Adhering to the specifications contained within these documents will ensure that the building comes out exactly the way it should and is not subjected to abuse by future builders.
In fact, the Nigerian National Building Code (NNBC) 2006 contains rules, regulations, specifications and ethics concerning the design, construction and maintenance of buildings in Nigeria. This code contains standards and specifications that must be enforced in the practice of building works in Nigeria.
However, corruption and greed in the building industry have also continued to play their own roles in the menace of building collapse in Nigeria.
The incidence of collapsed buildings is caused as a result of irregularities usually played up by site operatives and in most cases, in collaboration with land developers during construction exercises.
They sell construction materials like cement, sand, concrete blocks and reinforcement rods meant for construction. They subsequently under- reinforce the concrete and put inadequate quantity of cement in the blocks as well as the concrete, thus making it brittle and causing it to fail.
According to the coordinating chaplain of the National Christian Centre, Abuja, Bishop Peter Ogunmuyiwa, if Christians and indeed, all Nigerians in places of authority can avoid greed and selfishness and embrace holiness, Nigeria would be a much better place.
Ogunmuyiwa said this during a thanksgiving service organised in honour of the NIESV at the National Christian Centre.
Indeed, when the cost of building collapse is weighed holistically, it becomes obvious that it is an evil that should never be allowed to come into the picture at all.
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